Is it really work when you love what you do?

Jul 31
Mark McKown, Senior in Agricultural Sciences Education with a minor in horticulture

Did you know that North Dakota is the leading producer for over five types of grain? I definitely did not until I toured and listened to presentations from Cargill’s corn milling, malt, and grain and oilseed supply chain businesses. There is so much more to the agricultural industry than what I saw from my living room window back home in Illinois. My internship has helped me not only broaden my knowledge of agriculture, but also put that knowledge into practice. I am constantly in front of farmers talking to them about crop conditions, where grain is trading, weather issues and the list goes on. I am able to learn firsthand about agriculture in Minnesota and surrounding areas and it has definitely opened my eyes.

When I’m not out and about with farmers, I am in the office pictured below trying to learn more about forward marketing and the contracts that the farmers use to sell their grain. Cargill offers a great number of contracts that fit the needs of their farmers. Whether it is a straight hedge to arrive or a contract based on averages or a contract allowing market pros from Cargill to actively trade their grain, there is a contract for everyone.



On-the-job opportunities

Jul 30
Ellen Reeder, Senior in ACES

Last week, I spent several days out of the office traveling for my internship.

My first out-of-office visit was to a John Deere dealership in Dixon, Illinois. I grew up going to the John Deere dealership in my hometown, but I was always the errand girl. Being the errand girl means one thing: something needs fixed and you’d better not waste any time. That consequently meant that I was never able to actually ask any questions of our dealer.

Last week, I got to sit down for a roundtable discussion with two other interns, a dealer, and a territory manager. I asked questions until I was blue in the face.
I learned about Apex, FarmSight, JDLink, training, sales and promotions, community relations… the list could go on! It was so great to be able to take my knowledge from growing up on a farm and put that into a conversation surrounding modern technology and the challenges dealers and farmers face every day. I loved seeing the “front line” of the business where the rubber meets the road.

Later in the week, I had the opportunity to travel to Horicon, Wisconsin, for a 50th anniversary event for the John Deere lawn mower. My part at the event was to collect video footage for John Deere Online.

I met the original engineers of the 110 lawn mower from 1963 and they were nothing short of inspiring. They shared their stories of triumphs and trials while designing the lawn mower and putting it on the market. They showed maps of where they traveled, blueprints of the design, and photos of the first production line. At the time, several of them were just college students doing summer internships and it was so incredible to hear about what they had experienced during their long careers with John Deere. 

Each week, I continue to be pleasantly surprised by the opportunities that come my way and by the people that I meet. There are only three weeks left of my internship, but I’m sure they will be jam-packed full of great experiences!


John Deere engineers

Baling hay and career success

Jul 29
Jean Drasgow, Director of Career Services

Growing up on a small farm, each summer we would bale hay and straw into square bales. To accomplish the task, we’d hire extra help for the day. Securing help could be challenging because everyone’s fields were ready at the same time. My mother often used her reputation of good cooking to effectively secure help. What I didn’t realize until later is how amazing it was that my mom baled hay all day AND made a meal that farm help appreciated.

Before any of the help would arrive, my mom would be busy making pies or cobbler, forming hamburger patties, fixing a casserole, making a salad, slicing tomatoes, and peeling potatoes — readying everything for the noon meal. Then she would drive the tractor until all the hay was baled. During the time it took to unload the final wagon, she’d race back to the house to boil the potatoes, fry the hamburgers, heat up the casserole — ultimately placing a huge homemade meal for a dozen people on the table.

In work, at school, and life in general, if you plan ahead, you can maximize what you accomplish. To get the most out of your career/life, you need to plan how you can accomplish your dreams. If you simply show up for your job rather than dreaming of what you want to achieve and making a plan to execute the dream you won’t have as much capacity. Set your goals, plan how to achieve them and become successful!


Go, go, go!

Jul 29
Mark McKown, Senior in Agricultural Sciences Education with a minor in horticulture

It has been a whirlwind of fun, fast-paced experiences these past few days of my internship with Cargill. I have traveled more than 1,000 miles in Minnesota, Iowa and North Dakota to learn about the different business units in Cargill, contracts used for farmers to market their grain with Cargill, and a sales meeting with the farm marketers, personal marketing managers, a crop insurance agent, sales agronomists and the merchandising leader for our Farm Service Group. Not to mention, I went back to watch the Minnesota Twins beat the Cleveland Indians, got a horrible sunburn from going to the pool, and my parents and girlfriend are coming to visit this weekend! Always keeping busy!


Appreciating campus

Jul 23
Ellen Reeder, Senior in ACES

It’s hard to believe that my internship with John Deere is more than half over. I really love what I’m doing and I know I’m not out in the ‘real world’ yet, but my experience this summer is definitely making the ‘real world’ seem a lot more welcoming.

This weekend, I was back on campus for Illinois Sights and Sounds video filming and for an orange and blue wedding. Being back on campus for the weekend made me a little giddy for my ‘last first day of class.’ It was pretty warm out, so it made me think of move-in day on my freshmen year and how nervous I was. Heading back for my senior year this fall is a little bit nostalgic, and I have my senior bucket list ready.

While attending the orange and blue wedding on Saturday, I realized that I’ve really only been in one church on campus. One of my new bucket list items is to attend every church on campus this year. I knocked two out this weekend and they were both gorgeous.

I also walked around the Quad on Saturday evening and I realized how much I take for granted the beautiful campus that we have. I think it’s one of those things that you don’t really appreciate until you’re gone for a little while. With all the hustle and bustle of classes, meetings, social events, etc., we sometimes get lost in our own world and forget all of the history and tradition that surrounds us.

As I walked around, I remembered building a snowman in a certain spot, falling on the ice in another, freezing on the front steps of Foellinger in line for The Other Guys Christmas concert, watching the Homecoming pep rally, and of course volunteering for student organizations at Quad Day.

There were quite a few alumni walking around the Quad after the wedding. I heard several of them say how much campus has changed and improved, but how much it has stayed the same. I think our own lives are very similar to the transformations campus has. When we leave Illinois, our lives are changed and improved, but still so much is the same.

As you head to campus this fall, take the time to appreciate what’s around you. The time will fly by faster than you think.


University of Illinois Quad

The Summer 2013 issue is out!

Jul 19
Leann Ormsby, Assistant Dean of Information Technology and Communications Services

The summer 2013 issue of ACES@Illinois is hot off the press!  Be sure to check out this issue of the College of ACES’ premier magazine at I’m always so humbled to read about our amazing ACES students, faculty, staff, and alumni and how they are making an impact both locally and around the world. This issue is a must-read for everyone!


Summer 2013 ACES@Illinois

Animal Care Internship at Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute

Jul 16
Amanda Lehner, Senior in Animal Sciences

I arrived at the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute 45 days ago, but it feels like yesterday. I wasn’t sure what to expect and frankly, neither did anybody else here because I am the first intern of my kind. I am considered a Red Panda Animal Care and Research Intern, so I perform all aspects of daily animal care and husbandry with the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute’s red panda population. The research side of my internship includes monitoring video footage of the red panda nest box cameras, categorizing and organizing video, and learning the basics of endocrine analysis and behavioral observation of red pandas. The best part about it is that I did not learn about all of this until I arrived here on June 1, 2013.

I assumed that because my internship title included red pandas, I would only be working with the red pandas. However, this wasn’t the case. I would also be assisting keepers with clouded leopards, maned wolves, and even domestic cats! I had always heard people that work with animals say that no day was the ever the same and so far, all of my forty-five days have been different from one another. Each day has proven to be physically, as well as intellectually, challenging. During the first half of each day, I prepare animal diets and medications, cut fresh bamboo, thoroughly clean the enclosures, feed the animals, and transport any animals to and from the Vet Hospital on site if necessary. For the second half of my day, I organize and label a whole lot of red panda video footage for three to four hours. I have been doing this for the past 45 days and I am still not even close to being half-way done. It is a very time consuming task, but it is a part of research that everybody has to learn to deal with at some point.

The summer has gone by so fast already and I only have 36 more days left here. After looking back at everything, I have come very far and I am proud of myself for continuing to learn and thrive in all situations that come my way. I am not always perfect, but I always do my best. This way of life has allowed me to excel in a field where many are often overlooked and considered to be a number, rather than a name. After I complete my internship in 36 days, I hope that I will leave here with more knowledge and understanding about the animals and myself.


Amanda Lehner

Interning with Cargill in Minnesota

Jul 15
Mark McKown, Senior in Agricultural Sciences Education with a minor in horticulture

I am seven weeks into my internship and it feels like I started just yesterday. I cannot believe how fast time has gone and how much I have been able to experience. I have travelled to four different states with my internship and countless locations across central and southern Minnesota. My position as a Farm Marketer Intern allows me to experience the sales side of forward marketing. I accompany current Farm Marketers (FM) to meet with farmers and discuss either current contracts sold to Cargill or new contracts they might be interested in looking at to book with Cargill. My specific project, however, is going either alone or with an FM to complete a customer feedback survey. I am responsible for meeting with 20+ customers and presenting my findings to the leadership team for my Farm Service Group.

My office is based out of Hopkins, Minn., which is a suburb of Minneapolis. My apartment is 15 minutes from downtown. Outside of work I have been able to go to $5 Twins MLB games, a local amusement park, and visit some of the 10,000 lakes on the weekends. I also went to my first rodeo this summer and look forward to trying as many new things as I can while I am up here. I have had so much fun and can’t wait to keep trying new things!


Life-changing internships

Jul 15
Jennifer Shike, Director for Communications and Marketing

I'm always amazed at the exciting internships our ACES students participate in every year. And this summer is no different. The experiences gained, networks developed, relationships strengthened, and knowledge gained from real-world internships are nothing short of life-changing. I was privileged to have three foundational internships that helped me chart my career and develop into the person I am today. Because of that, I'm constantly listening for and searching out stories about these life-changing experiences in our ACES students. Over the next two months, you'll be able to hear directly from some of our students about their summer internship experiences. I hope you enjoy their firsthand accounts!

Lessons from the kitchen table

Jul 1
Ellen Reeder, Senior in ACES

I grew up in a family where jackets are blue, trucks are red, and tractors are green. Agriculture is our livelihood, hard work builds character, and supporting each other creates success.

I guess you could say that I learned everything I need to know at the kitchen table. I learned that things work better when they’re passed down, that you’d better clean your plate, and that trying new things is a good idea.

When I think back to my time as an FFA member, my days growing up on a family farm, and those lessons I learned at the kitchen table; I am eternally grateful. It’s these lessons and reminders that have helped me to create career success as a college student. I’m now six weeks into my second internship with John Deere. It’s amazing how much I’ve learned since last summer, but it’s those three lessons I learned at my family’s kitchen table that remind me of what’s important.

Lesson One: Things work better when they’re passed down.
Passing things down doesn’t always mean you’re getting a ‘hand-me-down.’ To me, passing things down means taking advice from others, learning by observing, and not being afraid to ask questions or seek help. I’ve learned that there are an endless amount of people surrounding me who are more than willing to lend advice, answer my questions, or help me in any way they can.

Lesson Two: You’d better clean your plate.
To me, this means that a job well done is done right the first time. However, sometimes it’s okay to let someone help you clean your plate because teamwork can create a more favorable atmosphere. During my internship, I’ve learned that seeing things through, collaborating, and doing the job right is important.

Lesson Three: Trying new things is a good idea.  
If you don’t take advantage of a new opportunity, someone else will. Being scared to step out of your comfort zone will get you left in the dust. I’ve found that saying yes to new opportunities can take you where you never expected to go, but that’s a good thing.

As the rest of the summer unfolds, I look forward to opportunities to learn, grow, and explore career paths. So far, I’ve tackled a few items on my intern bucket list and I can’t wait to see the rest through.


Ellen Reeder at John Deere Ribbon Cutting Ceremony
A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to attend a ribbon-cutting ceremony at Des Moines Works. I can accredit this experience to lesson number three.